Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace begins on October 1. If your first reaction is "Oh no, another part of socialist Obamacare is going into effect", hold on a minute. If you like your current health insurance, you don't need to do a thing, and nothing is going to change for you. But for Americans who don't have health insurance, or who buy their own insurance at a huge monthly premium, the marketplace (also called the "health insurance exchange") provides an opportunity to get coverage at an affordable rate.
Here's how it works. Beginning October 1, an individual or family can go to www.healthcare.gov, be directed to the state of residency, and apply for a policy. Based on one's income, budget, and care needs, the site will provide a selection of policies from which to choose. All the policies are provided by private insurance companies, and all will offer a comprehenisive set of benefits, including preventive services, emergency and hospital care, and maternity and newborn care. Also, beginning in 2014, insurance companies cannot refuse to cover those with pre-existing conditions, and cannot charge those with pre-existing conditions a higher premium. So if you purchased a policy that does not provide comprehensive services, or that charges you extra for a pre-existing condition, the chances are good that you will save money and increase your coverage, by changing to a policy bought through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Additionally, the site will tell you if you qualify for Medicaid in your state. Even people who don't qualify right now may qualify in 2014, when the eligibility rules change in most states.
The health insurance market place also provides assistance (called SHOP - Small Business Health Options Program) to small businesses that have 50 or fewer full-time employees. A business owner can find and compare insurance plans for his or her employees, while controlling how much he or she contributes towards premiums and how much coverage is offered. Small businesses may also qualify for a tax credit if they purchase insurance for their full-time employees through the SHOP marketplace.
If you purchase your own health insurance, or if you are responsible for insuring 50 or fewer employees, it behooves you to check out www.healthcare.gov beginning October 1 and take advantage of the programs available to you. Yes, you may have to do a little work to fully reap the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, but if the results are saving money, and peace of mind that you're covered if something happens to you, isn't it worth the effort?
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